OPINION: Vladimir Putin’s power grab is bad news for everyone

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By Darlene Dukelow-Burton

After a rambling hour-plus-long pre-recorded speech on television, filled with twisted history and much of Russia’s usual mythical government propaganda, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was beginning a special military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

He never called it for what it was: another Russian invasion and upon a democratic government. Putin declared Ukraine a threat to Russia and ended his speech with a warning to the world if they interfered. 

How does a superpower such as Russia come to fear the smaller Ukraine? Ukraine has stood in its way of profiting. They are vulnerable with no nuclear weapons, hold free elections, and their President Volodymyr Zelensky is an exemplary leader. Then, when Ukraine wanted to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Putin forbade it.

Putin used fake news reports and stock video on television to inform his troops and citizens that the Ukrainians were committing atrocities on Russian citizens living in the contested sectors of Ukraine. He said of Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost part of his family in the Holocaust, that he leads this “band of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.” Putin has told his people this propaganda for years and reiterated it in his war speech at the start of the invasion, adding he “will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.” 

The subversion of reality Putin employs is despicable. He uses flimsy, inflammatory tales to persuade his people to think he is entering Ukraine on a peacekeeping mission. He doesn’t just lie to the world; he lies to his fellow citizens. 

To be fair to them, many Russian citizens only know what Putin and his government tell them, only hearing censored information from inside their country. There is no free press, only government-controlled news. Putin recently closed the only two trusted Russian news agencies that air the truth because he didn’t like the unrest it caused. 

Fortunately, it is common for many citizens to sneak cell phones and computers into the country to reach the internet and learn what the world sees. Many citizens stay quiet because they fear their government’s special police, the OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit), and Spetsnaz. 

When a different truth came out about the special military operation, many Russian citizens took to the streets daily to protest the war despite the police. Since their police are known to be violent, the protestors are courageous to confront them, knowing they will be jail-bound for 15 years.

After the Russian forces moved forward with the invasion, they bombed every major city in Ukraine. Non-combatant citizens in the millions fled toward every free country on Ukraine’s border. Putin ordering strikes on the radioactive meltdown site in Chernobyl was especially surprising. 

Then Russia turned off the power sustaining the plant, and it is now starting to leak. The threat of radioactive fallout emanating from it once more is assured. Ukraine’s largest reactor, Zaporizhzhia, has fallen into Russia’s hands. There is fear for the safety of fifteen other online Soviet-era nuclear reactors located across the country. 

We must understand that Russia wants the immense power these sites can provide, and capturing them will cut it off from Ukraine. For years, Russia resentfully paid billions for the leasing rights to send their gas and oil through the Russian-built pipeline running through Ukraine to deliver and sell it to Europe. 

However, it is ludicrous to think that the Russian government imagines that fighting in nuclear containment fields is safe. It is causing fires in the plants, and the control equipment is far too sensitive for this insanity. It is dimwitted and without conscience to risk poisoning half of Europe and the world for one man’s colossal ego. 

I see that the Ukrainians are in an ugly situation. A peaceful country was invaded by an enemy from its nightmares. Now, war has become a reality, and President Zelensky, his cabinet, and families have a bounty on their heads. Two large mercenary groups backed by Russia made a third assassination attempt on him. Ukraine could fall if these assassinations succeed, creating a vacuum for Putin that could let him pave his way across eastern Europe, crushing other countries with Western thinking. 

Putin’s Old-World ambitions will tip us all into World War III and in his ignorance, he says he’s willing to press his finger on the button.

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